My One Word for 2018, Courage . . .

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 9.51.25 PMProfessionally, 2017 was a year of many changes for me, a year of good-byes and new beginnings.  It was exciting and, at the same time, challenging.  In July, I packed up a twenty-foot truck with furniture, rich classroom resources, books, and baskets – thirty-four years of educational treasures – and bid farewell to a wonderful group of teachers, students, and parents to begin a new adventure as principal at another school. Little did I know the challenges would be many, not only physical, but emotional as I set out to make some important differences in a new learning community. One of my first goals was to create some beautiful spaces and places where a renewed positive school climate could grow.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 7.20.50 PMFinally moved in, most of my boxes unpacked, many caring relationships established with staff, parents, and students, 2018 finds me rested and ready to continue my work. I have had to let go of some of my goals and grand ideas; the important work I am doing takes time . . . and all this brings me to my word for 2018 – COURAGE.  I will need courage to continue to do the right thing, to keep conversations going that matter, to keep making the hard decisions, and to keep focused on what is most important. I will need courage to accept the things I can not change quickly, or at all, and courage to be kind to myself when I mess up.

Courage – it’s the perfect word for me to continue my work

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 10.04.20 PMBrené Brown in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame writes, “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”

I will need courage to admit when I don’t have an answer, courage to ask for help, and courage to simply watch, listen, and wait.   Ernest Hemingway famously defined courage as “grace under pressure.” Winston Churchill stated, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others.” It has been said that passion and a motivation to discover and do extraordinary things is the heart of courage.  It takes courage to persevere in the face of adversity, in the face of challenges, and obstacles.  With courage, I will move forward.

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 7.22.58 PMMary Anne Radmacher in her book, Lean Forward into Your Life, also writes about courage.  “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”  Yes, there will always be a tomorrow.

I invite you to engage your students in finding their own words which will guide them to be a better self . . .  

In past years, instead of making New Year resolutions in an attempt to better themselves, I have also worked with students to explore, talk about, and choose their own one word for a new year. We discussed and researched how many writers all over the world choose one word to focus on, one word to guide them throughout the year and which they will write about it.  We also watched some interesting and motivating Youtube videos. Every student took the time to think about, and carefully choose, one meaningful word that he or she would focus on every day, all year long; a word that would help that student become a better person and to meet his or her goals.

After choosing their one word for the New Year, students drafted their writes.  They had to write about why they chose the word they did and how focusing on the word would impact their lives, at school, at home, with family and friends. After drafting their writes, they made edits, revisions, and then published “My One Word”.  The students then beautifully illustrated and coloured their words.

Here are some of the incredible work from former students in grade three and four.

So to all my friends and colleagues, young and old, what will your word be your for 2018?

Happy New Year!


  1. Thank you. Kelli, for this beautiful inspiration. I will definitely do this with my class and will share the examples with them. Which motivational videos did you watch?

    You’ve got me thinking deeply this morning. My word would be “PATIENCE”. For me, it takes courage, trust, and humility to believe that good things happen in time. Good things happen for people that I have nothing to do with me…Patience for life’s path to unfold. Thank you for opening this conversation about what matters for 2018.

  2. Thanks Kelli. Reading your ideas was a perfect way to begin my transition back to work after the holidays – much appreciated!
    Happy New Year – don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you want to chat (I’ll do the same).

  3. I have truly enjoyed working with you in your classroom a few years ago when you welcomed me in to help confirm that I was on the right track becoming an EA.
    Your approach to sharing your knowledge is not black and white. You present and reinforce the lessons on so many levels be it games, books, songs and experiments. This way no one was left behind – and it’s exciting to see the students connect the dots and “get it”.
    Then challenging the students to show what they know. It was equally rewarding to see YOUR responses to their work being created.
    Thank you for doing what you do and sharing your passion for learning with our children and community.
    Best of luck in 2018 at your new school in your new role. They are lucky to have you.
    P.S. My word for 2018 is Fierce.

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